Holiday Edition: Arts Fuse critics select the best in music, film, and theater for the coming week.
By The Arts Fuse Staff
December 21, 27, 28 at Noon
The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA
The always-diverting annual program presents the best television, online, outdoor, and cinema commercials produced by British advertising agencies.
Through a Lens Darkly
December 21, 27 & 28 at 3 p.m.
Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA
“A rich and lyrical tapestry that is both personal and epic in scope, Thomas Allen Harris’s extraordinary documentary examines how black photographers—and their subjects—have used the camera as a tool for social change from the invention of photography through the present.” (ICA) A New England premiere.
December 31st 7:30 p.m.
Cutler Majestic Theater, Boston, MA
This is a special First Night Presentation of the 1923 Harold Lloyd classic with the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra performing an original score under the direction of Sheldon Mirowitz (sponsored by the Coolidge Corner “Sounds of Silents” Series). Lloyd played the American everyman, scrambling for his big break. This is the perfect introduction to the work of a great comedian, featuring amazing stunts as well as the iconic image of Lloyd hanging from a clock high above the city.
Recommended Christmas Openings
Tim Burton gets back to the elegant storytelling style of Big Fish in his cinematic version of the outlandish but true story of Margaret and Walter Keane, the creators of the ‘Big Eye’ paintings that became a kitsch art phenomenon in the ’60s. The paintings earned the Keanes millions, greatly helped by Walter’s brilliant hustling and marketing. The problem was that he also claimed to be the painter. As the central couple, Amy Adams is quietly brilliant while Christoph Waltz provides some madly effusive shenanigans. After seeing the film, the real Margaret Keane said it was like reliving the past. The film’s beautiful set designs, costumes, and ’60s architecture are at the service of a comic story that is takes a serious look at the machinations of American popular culture as well as the domestic role of women during that era.
Into The Woods
I wouldn’t dare say to the estimable Meryl Streep that “you, m’am, are no Margaret Hamilton.” Her performance as a Wicked Witch in this adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim musical is one of a number of fine performances in the film — and she sings her own parts admirably. This is a terrific looking production with a fairy-tale-based plot that becomes more complicated than one might expect. Thankfully, director Rob Marshall doesn’t over-edit this musical, as he did his film version of Chicago. Chris Pine (Jack Ryan) is an overly vain prince, Emily Blunt and Anna Kendrick are charming, and James Corden is wonderfully cast as the Baker around whom the plot revolves. Only Johnny Depp is allowed to ham it up – as usual. Great for the family.
This is probably not a great movie for the entire family, unless Grandpa is anxious to relive the heroism of ‘the greatest generation’ on Christmas. Or someone in the clan never saw Bridge Over the River Kwai. But this story (based on Laura Hillenbrand’s book) cried out for a screen version and Angelina Jolie does a serviceable work as the director charged with bringing this sprawling story to dramatic life. After a tough childhood, Louis Zamperini became a record-breaking distance runner, eventually competing in 1936 Olympic Games. In 1943 he was a bombardier on a B-24 flying out of Hawaii; he crashed, and was one of only three members of an 11-man crew to survive 47 days at sea. He was rescued by the Japanese and imprisoned, bearing up under brutal conditions until the end of the war. Rousing and relentless.
Two Days, One Night
The Boston film critics voted this as the Best Foreign Film of 2014 and Marion Cotillard as Best Actress. Directed by Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne in their trademark minimalist style, the story revolves around a woman who spends a weekend going door-to-door in an effort to convince her 16 fellow workers in a solar-panel factory to take a vote and refuse their €1,000 annual bonus — so that she can keep her job. Each worker’s individual response is based on his or her conscience and life circumstances: the realistic narrative takes on the power of a fable. This is the directors’ first time using a professional actress, and the brilliant Cotillard is utterly believable as a wife and mother emotionally spent but hopeful, swallowing her pride in order to summon up all her reserves for the sake of her family.
– Tim Jackson
December 27, 7 p.m.
Lily Pad, Cambridge, MA.
The formidable Wellesley-born alto saxophonist Dave Rempis, a longtime member of the Ken Vandermark Five, blows back into his hometown from Chicago to play with pianist Pandelis Karayorgis, bassist Nate McBride, and drummer Luther Gray.
Dwight & Nicole
December 31, 9:30 p.m.
Regattabar, Cambridge, MA.
Yes, it’s New Year’s Eve — or as those in the entertainment service industries call it, “Amateur night.” But that doesn’t mean there isn’t good entertainment to be had for those venturing forth. Guitarist/vocalist Dwight Ritcher and singer Nicole Nelson deliver a personal, engaging mélange of blues, R&B, jazz, and even a touch of ska. They’re joined by singer/guitarist Jesse Dee.
– Jon Garelick
Necessary Monsters by John Kuntz. Directed by David R. Gammons. Staged by Speakeasy Stage Company in the Roberts Studio Theatre at the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street, Boston, MA, through January 3, 2015.
“Sex, mystery, and terrible danger lurk just around the corner” in this world premiere production of a script by award-winning local playwright John Kuntz. There is not much about the plot in the press release, just that the audience will be taken “into the labyrinth of the human psyche for a darkly hilarious and dream-like look at the ways we do violence and the stories we create to keep us up at night.” The “all-star Boston ensemble includes Thomas Derrah, McCaela Donovan, Stacy Fischer, Evelyn Howe, Georgia Lyman, Greg Maraio, and Michael Underhill.” Arts Fuse review
The Light Princess by Lila Rose Kaplan. Directed by Allegra Libonati. Music by Mike Pettry. Choreography by Jeff and Rick Kuperman. Presented by the A.R.T. /MXAT Institute for Advanced Theater Training at the Loeb Drama Center, Cambridge, MA, through January 4, 2015.
A holiday show that would seem to push all the right inspirational buttons: “Based on George MacDonald’s fairy tale, this delightful musical tells the story of a young princess cursed to live without gravity. She floats through life unburdened by cares or sorrow, constantly soaring through high winds and avoiding low trees. If her parents, the King and Queen, don’t help her come back to earth by her 16th birthday, the curse will be permanent.”
O.P.C. by Eve Ensler. Directed by Pesha Rudnick. Staged by the American Repertory Theater at the Loeb Drama Center, Cambridge, MA, through January 4, 2015.
The world premiere of a political satire from the author of The Vagina Monologues. The script is billed as “a wildly funny exploration of consumption and politics that asks, “How are we to survive as a species if we insist on destroying the world we love?”‘ The cast includes Kate Mulligan and Olivia Thirlby. Arts Fuse review
The Christmas Revels: A Victorian Celebration of the Winter Solstice. Directed by Patrick Swanson. Music direction by George Emlen. At Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre, Cambridge, MA, through December 28.
This year the 80-member ensemble is revving up its way-back machine to “sally forth (or sally back, as it were) to Victorian London, and more specifically, the “Crystal Palace,” the remarkable glass building erected for the Great Exhibition of 1851. Inside you’ll find a colorful cast of characters, including a harried producer, cheeky street performers, and even composer Sir Arthur Sullivan, all caught up in a scheme to produce a whirlwind Christmas performance fit for a Prince.” Arts Fuse review
Irving Berlin’s White Christmas Music and Lyrics by Irving Berlin, an adaptation for the stage based upon the Paramount Pictures film written for the screen by Norman Krasna, Norman Panama and Melvin Frank. Book by David Ives and Paul Blake. Direction and choreography by Randy Skinner. Musical direction by Michael Horsely. Presented by Work Light Productions at the Citi Performing Arts Center Wang Theatre, through December 28.
“Bring your loved ones for a heart-warming celebration of Americana.” This stage adaptation of the venerable film “tells the story of two showbiz buddies putting on a show in a picturesque Vermont inn, and finding their perfect mates in the bargain. Full of dancing, romance, laughter and some of the greatest songs ever written, including “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep,” “Happy Holiday,” “Sisters,” “Blue Skies,” and the unforgettable title song.”
Midsummer [a play with songs] by David Greig & Gordon MacIntyre. Directed by Danielle Fauteux Jacques . Staged by Apollinaire Theatre Company at Chelsea Theatre Works, 189 Winnisimmet St., Chelsea, MA, December 26 through January 11, 2015
I like the way this company thinks in the midst of winter — why not a show about the warm times ahead? Midsummer is the story of a great lost weekend of bridge-burning, car chases, wedding bust-ups, bondage miscalculations, midnight trysts and self-loathing hangovers.” The piece comes with lots of praise from Europe — even the assurance from the Daily Telegraph that Greig is “one of the most interesting and adventurous British dramatists of his generation.”
– Bill Marx
New Year’s Eve/Day Concerts
Presented by Boston Baroque
December 31 (at 8 p.m.) and January 1 (at 3 p.m.)
Sanders Theater, Cambridge, MA
Mozart and Domenico Cimarosa are the composers with which Boston Baroque rounds out the old year and celebrates the new this season. The latter’s Il maestro di cappella and arias and duets from Mozart operas are accompanied by complimentary champagne and chocolate at intermission.
– Jonathan Blumhofer